Peak(s):  Mt. Tweto  -  13,672 feet
Mt. Arkansas  -  13,795 feet
Mt. Buckskin  -  13,865 feet
Loveland Mountain  -  13,692 feet
Date Posted:  09/30/2020
Date Climbed:   09/26/2020
Author:  daway8
 Tweto - Buckskin traverse plus Arkansas and Loveland   

I remember seeing this ridge when I previously did the Buckskin - Democrat traverse, which was one of my first ventures into ridge hiking (that one is a great intro ridge). This Tweto - Buckskin traverse looked intimidating from there and I saw mention in some trip reports that it was some fairly serious class 4 terrain. But having just done the West Dyer - Dyer traverse the day before this ridge was by comparison a bit of a let down.

While the Dyer traverse was one that you would be hard pressed not to encounter at least some class 4 on, for this Tweto - Buckskin traverse you have to kind of work at it if you want to find some class 4. Honestly much of the time you have to work just to find class 3. But that's not to say it can't still be fun. It would probably be perceived as more interesting if you did Buckskin to Tweto since most all the more challenging terrain is clumped up near Buckskin and things often look more difficult on a downclimb than going up.

Route: Mosquito Creek Trailhead - Tweto Southwest Ridge - Arkansas - back to Tweto - Buckskin - Loveland Mountain - crazy gully descent to flee the insane wind - Mosquito Creek Trailhead

Round Trip Length: 9 miles; Elevation Gain: 4,255ft; Total Time:10hr, 49min (again moving slowly to explore and document features).

Pano from Democrat (far left) to Buckskin (middle) to Tweto (right). Both of these are fun easy class 3 ridges, with Buckskin-Democrat being the easier of the two.

The Approach

I'm not sure what Mosquito Pass is like if you go up higher, but the road up to the parking area near the lake is a very mellow 4WD road and there is decent space off the side of the road to park.

Looking back down towards the parking area as the Mosquito Pass road turns in front of the lake.
Tweto (far left) and part of the traverse.

I had originally contemplated trying to hop up onto the ridge partway along it with the idea that I'd do Tweto and Arkansas, then come back and do the Tweto - Buckskin traverse and end with a partial backtrack then drop off the side of the traverse (the ascent in the morning intended to prove I could safely come down in the afternoon). Well it didn't take much looking at the traverse for me to abandon that idea. Many of these ridges have gullies that are viable, if not optimal, for descending. But the options on this ridge didn't look too great for that.

But I noticed the slopes off of Loveland Mountain looked much less unpleasant for descent (or so I thought...) so instead I took the standard route up Tweto with the idea of making a full loop and coming down the side of Loveland Mountain.

Slightly different angle of the Tweto - Buckskin traverse.
Almost up on the Tweto ridge.

Wind vs. Hiker

The wind that day was bad. Real bad. Having just done 3 peaks the day before with some very serious scrambling I was starting to question if I really wanted to try to tackle 4 peaks, plus a reportedly class 4 ridge with a bitter cold wind that was already blasting me even down low. Having only done cursory research on the ridge I knew it could be risky to attempt it in high wind but I figured I had better odds of at least getting Tweto and Arkansas and since I had already done Buckskin it would be easier to bail if I needed to.

Thus began the battle with the wind - where the wind tried but failed to turn me back.

Score: Hiker 1; Wind 0

Tweto and Arkansas

Tweto is pretty straightforward, just a stroll up the ridge. Once I gained the ridge the wind was blasting me from the west (my left). Interestingly the wind would come from different directions throughout the day as I moved from ridge to ridge.

I had intentionally done fairly minimal research on this route because I'm trying to get better at route finding and less reliant on technology (though I still pretty much always have GPX tracks downloaded for at least getting back to the trailhead and always log my tracks to be able to backtrack if needed). As such, having merely skimmed a trip report about Tweto and Arkansas I had somehow gotten the impression that Arkansas was just a short little stroll over the ridge from Tweto.

Sign on top of Tweto
First look at the large dip over to Arkansas.

In retrospect I'm not sure how I missed the rather dramatic drop between Tweto and Arkansas even with my cursory research. Maybe I thought it was a more spread out descent or maybe I neglected to count topo lines but when I got up on Tweto and saw the drop to Arkansas with a couple bumps in between I groaned.

It roughly on the order of 400ft down then 500ft back up. Then 500ft down and 400ft up to return to Tweto. Oh, and unlike the Dyer traverse, the rock here is rather unstable. LOTS of mid to large size rocks were moving under me between Tweto and Arkansas. It's still probably class 2 but unpleasant class 2. Not difficult, just annoying. The strong wind didn't help with that either. It was hitting me more or less from the left (SW) which was the same side the trail was on (there were occasionally features I could duck behind for a bit but hiking on the right side of the ridge wasn't really a viable option).

Arkansas is out past the humps.
Looking back at the Tweto - Buckskin traverse.

At one point the wind got the better of me as I broke one of my own cardinal rules of hiking:

"Never start moving until your phone is securely stashed and sealed in your pocket"

For years now this cardinal rule has prevented me from ever loosing or damaging a phone in the mountains and has enabled me to take some neat pictures in challenging terrain. But on this day I broke that cardinal rule.

It was easy terrain on top of the first big hump on the way to Arkansas - fairly flat. What could go wrong?

The wind had been waiting for just this opportunity. This foolish hiker started stepping forward with phone still in hand. WOOOOOSSSHH!!! Out of nowhere a huge gust of wind nails me. But I have plenty of experience dealing with high winds at high altitude so I was not knocked off my feet even when caught off guard. With my lightning reflexes I expertly moved a foot over to a rock half as big as a microwave where I could secure my balance against the wind.

Did I mention the rock here is pretty unstable? That stupid rock not only wobbled but rolled completely out from under my foot. With my balance now compromised, the wind still blasting and my hands committed to the preservation of my phone, I bit the dust - or bit the rock in this case. I took an ugly little pair of scrapes along the inside of my left leg (some of the rocks here are sharp too!), a crack in the bottom corner of my phone, and a couple bruises on my body as well as my ego.

Score: Hiker 1; Wind 1

Arkansas on the left and Bartlett's hacked up summit right of center.
Another angle of some of the humps on the way to Arkansas.

That would be the last time that day I broke that cardinal rule of hiking. I also paid the wind much more respect from that point on while at the same time having a bit of a grudge to pick.

View from Arkansas back towards the Tweto - Buckskin traverse.
A closer view of poor Bartlett.

I continued on and would twice pass the sole other hiker I saw that entire day (he went Arkansas to Tweto as I went the other way). I eventually made it to my second peak of the day despite the continued harassment of the wind.

Score: Hiker 2; Wind 1

There's a good rock pile on the summit of Arkansas that offers some shelter from the wind. Then it's just a long hike on unstable rock up and down back to Tweto.

Disheartening view of the climb back up Tweto.

Tweto - Buckskin Traverse

Upon making it back to Tweto I had a serious decision to make. Do I tackle a ridge reported to be class 4 for which I did minimal research on a day with howling winds or do I say 2 peaks is good enough and go back down the standard route for Tweto?

As I looked over the ridge I could quickly see that much of it looked like you could very easily stroll along the right (south) side on simple terrain. Plus, at this point and along this ridge, the wind was now coming over the ridge from the north (left) side. I also decided that the slopes down off the ridge might not be as bad as I thought. So I decided to cautiously give it a try.

The little wind shelter just down from the high point of Tweto and just before the start of the traverse to Buckskin.

The first half of this ridge out to the high point and beyond is very tame - pretty much just class 2, maybe barely hitting class 3 at times. However the wind was pretty bad whenever I was up on the ridge top. Since the terrain wasn't yet very interesting I opted to stay just down to the right for much of this first section to avoid the wind.

The rock quality on the ridge was also proving to be MUCH more stable than the loose stuff between Tweto and Arkansas. That contributed to me be willing to continue despite the strong winds.

However whenever I did pop up on the ridge there were times when a class 2 stroll became what I'll call a "horizontal class 4 wind equivalent" because the wind gust could get so crazy. A few times I had to squat down and cling to the ridge. The wind never actually took me down on the ridge but that fact that I had to squat on class 2 terrain I counted as half a point.

Score: Hiker 2; Wind 1.5

Much of the ridge has gentle terrain on the right side where you can easily bypass much of the harder terrain if wanted.
Example of one of a handful of features where you can get some scrambling fun.

Perhaps one of the best features on the ridge is a rock face (literally a face...) which, on the approach to it has a little mini ledge squeezing under an overhanging rock and over a drop just big enough to create some discomfort (see "ledge hug" waypoint).

Coming up to the ledge hug and the rock face.
Go around to the right if you want to try the ledge hug.

This is an example of a fun move to be had for someone looking for interesting features. The ledge hug was on the side blocked from the wind.

Ledge hug involving ducking under overhang while not falling of the drop.

After doing that fun little move you come up to the rock face itself, and very much a face it is. This is perhaps the one spot where you could maybe do a few class 5 moves. I briefly considered trying the class 5 wedge below but was one foothold away from getting a good start up it. Plus, although the wind ripping up through the gully right in front of the face was for the most part not hitting the face, I wasn't 100% confident that it wouldn't occasionally swerve around the corner and pose a problem on the wall.

So I opted to go a little further behind the face to find an easier route up.

The rock face. This is perhaps the one spot where you might be able to pull some class 5 moves out of the ridge.
Class 5 wedge (see waypoint) just behind and below the left ear of the rock face.

At that point the ridge starts to become more enjoyable since there are options to start actually scrambling. Not much in the way of cool features like the chimney and dihedral on Dyer, but some enjoyable general scrambling. I'll include several photos to give a feel for this last section but didn't really break things down since it was fairly basic.

View after coming up just past the rock face.
...and view after walking back to look down.
Example of scrambling you can find towards the end of the ridge.
Final approach growing closer.
There are still options to stay to the right of the ridge until near the very end.
Follow the ridge if you're going the other way and want to find the rock face.
The flat options start to go away at the end but still can be kept class 3 I believe.
Example of a fun feature you can either go up or around.
You do reach some good solid class 3 at the end the the ridge just before Buckskin.
Looking back over the ridge to Tweto and Arkansas where I was earlier in the morning.
You may or may not hit some easy class 4 in this section but can keep it class 3 if you try.

The last feature you'll encounter is this neat little slab. Probably harder going down than up but you could bypass it easily if you wanted to.

Your final option for fun is this little slab. It was more interested while getting hit by wind gusts (no real exposure here).
Close-up of the final slab.

Looking back across the traverse from Tweto.

Buckskin and Loveland Mountain

Buckskin seems to have two peaks. The one marked as official on this site and the maps is not the one you reach right at the top of the ridge, though someone had a summit register there as if it was. When I stuck waypoints here and at the official peak just down the ridge they both registered as 13,802ft. So it's a toss-up.

There are rock cairns on both versions of the summit which can offer some shelter from the wind.

Looking over towards Kite Lake and the masses doing the Decalibron - the crowds were already starting to thin since I was moving slow.

Speaking of the wind - though it continued to harass me and chill me I successfully made the traverse and summitted the third peak of the day.

Score: Hiker 3; Wind 1.5

From Buckskin 2 looking over to the official Buckskin summit.
From the official summit looking back over to Buckskin 2.

That Crazy Wind

At this point there was only a trivial class 2 stroll over to Loveland Mountain to claim my 4th peak for the day and 7th for the weekend.

That's when the wind decided it wasn't going down without a fight. Up until now the wind had been annoying - making me stay layered up and occasionally need to brace against it including a few dramatic moments when I had tried to keep to the very top of the Tweto - Buckskin traverse, but overall it hadn't been too much of an issue.

But now the wind redoubled its efforts to thwart me and it became a continuous gale with occasional horrific gusts. I was being reminded of the stories I've read on here of people being picked up like rag dolls by the wind, but also of how some folks have used the criteria of having to be knocked down a couple times before giving up on account of the wind. Plus, my descent plan was to go down the side of Loveland Mountain but at this point the wind was now coming more or less from the southwest (my right) which was the direction I needed to descend to get to my Jeep.

So I decided to go ahead and forge on to Loveland Mountain - part of me hoping that once I passed the low point on the ridge I'd find that the worst of the wind as coming over that low point and that it would lessen as I got to the summit.

No such luck. I coined a new class or two that day. The ridge to Loveland Mountain is now classified for me as Class A or Class 2W5 (for Class Airborne or Class 2 features that the wind causes to feel like they're class 5).

Thankfully I didn't actually go airborne but had to take a knee several times and walk hunched down with my poles dug into the mountain the rest of the way. Partway over I found a little foxhole and had to drop down in it just to get a break. Being forced to kneel and even take shelter on a class 2 stroll meant there's another point for the wind.

Score: Hiker 3; Wind 2.5

The long class 2 stroll over to Loveland Mountain.
Finally almost to the large rock cairn at the summit.

However, once I set my mind to something I'm hard to turn back (plus I didn't have a whole lot of options at this point anyways). So I stuck with it and made it to Loveland Mountain for my 4th peak of the day.

Score: Hiker 4; Wind 2.5

Then it was time for the descent. I had only made up my descent plan on the fly that morning upon seeing how ugly the side of the Tweto - Buckskin traverse was but how comparatively gentle some of the gullies coming off Loveland Mountain seemed to be. I had in my mind to descend down a particular gully but the wind was so freaking crazy that I didn't want to stay up there wondering around trying to find the gully I had in my so I just took a quick stab at about where it seemed like it ought to be and started down to get the heck out of that crazy wind.

Well I picked the wrong gully...

Arrow showing the parking area as seen from the gully I went down.
Looking back up this horrid gully - the picture totally fails to capture how loose it was and how there were a lot of dirt sections.

This was one of those gullies where every step caused a section of dirt and rock to slide down, though only by a foot or two if I went slow. So the process was:

Step, slide, wait for it to settle.

Step, slide, wait for it to settle.

Step, slide, wait for it to settle.

Continue for almost 1 hour...

Oh that stinking wind that induced me to rush down the first gully I could find!!!

Score: Hiker 4; Wind 3.5

I had put on my microspikes at the top of the gully and perhaps they helped a bit but much of this was so loose there was little that could help.

Looking over towards Tweto from the gully I could see options off the traverse weren't too appealing either.
Looking back up the gully from flat-ish ground.


The gully the wind tricked me into going down.
At right is the gully I had been thinking of taking down, at left is where the wind lured me down. The image is tilted a little...

After finally getting down off the gully it was fairly straightforward to get back to the Jeep. I had a bit of a willow maze to navigate at the very end but managed to weave through without the need for willow bashing.

Heading back down and navigating through willows.
At right is the gully I figured might work for a descent vs the horrid one at left I came down.

At last, I strolled over the stream and made it back to the 4WD parking.

Final Score: Hiker 4; Wind 3.5

I briefly had a nagging worry that the wind would score a last minute touchdown by flipping my Jeep on the way down the 4WD road but thankfully it was no where near strong enough for that, so the final score stands.

The stream the road goes over just after the turn and right before the 4WD parking.

My Times:

6:45am start

8:51am Tweto summit

9:40am top of first big hump on the way to Arkansas

10:07am Arkansas summit. 4.1 miles, just shy of 3.5hrs

10:30am return to Tweto

10:56am back at first high point on the ridge

11:45am back on Tweto summit. ~5mi, 5 hrs

12:05pm start Tweto - Buckskin traverse

12:56pm ridge high point

1:31pm almost at last low point on ridge before climb to Buckskin

2:44pm summit Buckskin 2 at top of the ridge

3:03pm official Buckskin summit

3:26pm pause in foxhole on way to Loveland Mountain due to crazy winds

3:45pm Loveland Mountain summit

4:05pm put on microspikes prior to dropping down loose gully

4:54pm finally at base of the loose gully

5:28pm back at the road

5:35pm back at the Jeep

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Comments or Questions
As usual...
10/02/2020 02:02
A very good report - well documented.

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